Archives for August 2012

A Visit with a Pediatric Neurosurgeon

Yesterday was an incredibly difficult day for myself and my husband, and not just because of the title of this message. Before I get into the visit, I need to give you a little back story first…

Several weeks ago, I was giving Gage his nightly bath. As I rubbed the shampoo into his head, I noticed an odd little lump. I showed it to my husband, and we decided to watch it for a day or two and see if it went away. What we both noticed, though, was that this lump wasn’t like a normal “I fell and hit my head” bump. The bump was rock hard, and just seemed so odd.

After a few days, the bump still hadn’t gone away, so I scheduled an appointment with his doctor. She said it felt like a bone spur or a cyst, but we would need to take Gage to a specialist to know for sure. Because we live in the middle of nowhere, that meant taking Gage to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite… a 3 hour drive from us.

I called and scheduled an appointment with the Pediatric Neurosurgeons at Scottish Rite Hospital, but they couldn’t get us in for several weeks. Over the past few weeks, we’ve watched as the lump enlarged, then got so small it almost disappeared, and then started to get larger again. For weeks, I have worried, stressed, and prayed constantly. It’s funny – just a few months ago, when it was me dealing with a lump in my breast, I was calm, level-headed, and certain everything was going to be fine. Now that it’s Gage, though, my heart has been in knots since we scheduled the appointment with the neurosurgeons.

The day for Gage’s appointment finally arrived. Yesterday morning, we loaded the older kids on the bus, ran to a very dear friend’s house to borrow her car, and headed down to Atlanta. Our appointment was scheduled for 11:00am, and we finally arrived about 10:45am. It was a long trip, but both Parker and Gage did great the whole way down.

The pediatric neurosurgeon’s office was full of so many sick children. It was heartbreaking. I couldn’t help but hold my boys a little tighter and thank the Lord for keeping them from harm thus far.

Around 11:15, they called us back into an office. We met with the Neurosurgeon’s nurse practitioner. She was nice, and Gage didn’t freak out too badly when she came near him. (He’s at the stage where doctors = evil.) She examined the lump, told us that she thought it was a dermatoid cyst, and said that the doctor would be in to see us shortly. She mentioned that it is definitely a benign thing, but it will most likely need removed.

A few minutes later, the doctor came in. He was, hands down, one of the kindest doctors I have ever taken my children to. He examined the lump for quite some time, took some measurements, and asked us about any changes we’ve seen in the lump over the past few weeks. We told him about the changes in size, but how it hasn’t ever seemed to bother Gage.

The doctor explained that he truly believes it is a dermatoid cyst, and he explained it in full detail. When your skin flakes off on the outside, it creates dust. Sometimes, your skin flakes off on the inside, and it causes a cyst. If that cyst isn’t removed quickly, it can actually burrow itself into the bone, replacing the bone with itself. This makes that part of the bone much weaker, and since Gage’s is on his skull, this isn’t something we should just “wait out.” The only thing he wasn’t 100% sure of is if the cyst has started burrowing into the skull yet. He seemed concerned that it had, since typically, you can move a dermatoid cyst around under the skin. Gage’s doesn’t move. Most likely it has attached itself to the skull – whether it’s burrowing yet or not, they don’t know.

So, he recommended we go downstairs in the hospital to radiology to have a head CT scan done. The CT scan would give the doctors a better idea of what they’re about to cut into.

We scheduled his surgery for Monday, September 10th. If the cyst is not into the skull yet, it should be a fairly easy surgery. We’ll go in at 8am and be able to leave the hospital around noon. If the cyst has started burrowing, it will require a much more intricate surgery, as well as an overnight stay. The CT scan should tell us which surgery we should probably expect, but he told us we should still be prepared for anything.

We left the neurosurgeon’s office around 12:30pm, and headed down to patient registration to wait for them to send us over to radiology. We were told it would be a 30 – 45 minute wait. We were all hungry, since no one had eaten anything, so we figured we could wait another 30 – 45 minutes and then get something to eat.

3 hours later, we were finally called back to radiology. At this point, it’s 3:30pm. None of us had eaten all day, and Parker and Gage hadn’t napped at all. The boys were amazingly good. It was me that was ready to fly off the handle. A stressed out, hungry, emotional pregnant woman is not a good thing.

Between 3:30 and 4pm, we watched as every person that came into the waiting room went back before us. Then they came out. Then, someone new went back. At 4:30, I asked the receptionist how much longer we were going to have to wait. She replied that they just had a bunch of emergency CT scans come in, so we would have to wait another half an hour or so.

At this point, I didn’t know if I wanted to scream or cry. My husband, being the amazing, level-headed man that he is, said to me, “Angie, if we were the ones that needed an emergency CT scan on one of our kids, we wouldn’t want to wait for anyone else.” I knew he was right. He was absolutely right. We were waiting on a CT scan for something that’s not life threatening. I can’t say the same for the other parents in the emergency room that afternoon.

So we waited.

At 5:23pm, they finally called Gage’s name. Gene took him back, and I took Parker to ride the elevators and then over to the gift shop. Gene and Gage showed up at exactly 5:30. We waited 5 hours for a 5 minute procedure. But, it was done, and we could finally start the 3 hour drive home.

Side note: We do not have any results of the CT scan yet. They will send those results to the doctor, and he will call me to let me know which surgery we can most likely expect.

We got in the car, and started heading home. Only 5:30pm in Atlanta means one thing: Traffic. It took us an hour to go 10 miles to find a restaurant. After filling all our bellys – and making sure we stuffed ourselves full! – we got in the car and headed home. We pulled in our driveway at 9:15pm. I dropped the boys off, and then I had to return my friend’s car, and then go pick up the older kids from my in-law’s house. I finally made it home at 10:30pm. Talk about a long day.

I do have to brag on Gage and Parker, though. For as long as our day was, and as hungry as we were, those two boys were perfect angels. We didn’t have a lick of trouble from either one of them. I honestly couldn’t believe how good they were. They made new friends all day, and were just as good as good can be. They each had a moment in the restaurant… Gage when we couldn’t feed him fast enough, and Parker when I wouldn’t let him get up from the table to go wash his hands. 🙂 But, one freak out from each of them in a 15 hour day – with no naps? I cannot be upset about that!

It was a very long day, but at least it was productive. Gage’s surgery is scheduled, and hopefully soon I will know which surgery he will most likely need. I promise to keep you all updated on his surgery and the results of the CT scan.

I want to thank everyone that said a prayer for Gage, and those that helped us out – by letting us borrow their car, watching our older kids, or the countless other ways we have been helped through this. We’re far from done, but at least we have answers, and we couldn’t have those without the help of so many of you.

After spending all day in a hospital full of sick children, I’m squeezing my kids a little tighter and thanking Jesus for His many, many blessings on my family.

Get Back to School at Target with General Mills & Crayola {Ends 9/13} #MyBlogSpark

There’s lots of talk everywhere about Back to School! I can’t log into Facebook without seeing dozens and dozens of pictures of friends’ kids that are heading back to school and starting the new year.

My favorite place to stock up on Back to School items is Target. They have everything I need – for all 4 of the kids in school this year – in one place. No making 20 trips to different stores. I can get school supplies, book bags, shoes, clothes, and even food for lunches all at my local Target.

During the month of August, Target is making Back to School even easier:

  • Save up to $5 on Crayola products when you purchase specially marked Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Bars, Big G Cereal, and Pillsbury Toaster Strudel.
  • Purchase specially marked Crayola 64 count crayons and save on General Mills products.
  • Find a fun Crayola coloring activity on participating Big G cereal boxes.

I also want to encourage you to check out www.GrocerySavvy.com. There you’ll find coupons for more of your back to school needs, recipes, and even a special 2012 “Grocery Savvy Crayola Back to School” Sweepstakes where you could win one of 700 Crayola 8-count Washable Dry Erase Crayons or one of 20 Crayola Zany Play Edition Dry-Erase Activity Centers.

For this spark, MyBlogSpark sent me a Back to School pack that contained a $20 Target Gift Card, A Box of Cheerios, and an 8-count pack of Crayola Dry Erase markers.

The $20 Target Gift card immediately went to my oldest daughter to help her purchase all the items she needed for back to school. (And, thanks to Target’s great prices on back to school supplies, that $20 went a long way!) Parker and Gage devoured the box of Cheerios, and we all love the Crayola Dry Erase Crayons. They’re great for keeping the family organized on our dry erase calendar.

Be sure to check out the following websites for more information, coupons, and more!

Want to win a Back to School prize pack of your own featuring a $20 Target GC, a Box of Cheerios, and Crayola Dry Erase Crayons? Use the Rafflecopter gadget below to enter.

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Disclosure:  The product, gift pack, information, and additional sample have been provided by Crayola, Target, and General Mills through MyBlogSpark.

Got Brownies on the Brain? Curb the Craving with FiberOne! #MyBlogSpark (Ends 9/12)

It’s no secret that I love sweets… but that can get me into trouble fast.

That’s why I love Fiber One and the new Chocolate Chip flavor Fiber One 90 Calorie Brownies. At just 90 calories each, I can enjoy a brownie and not undo my whole day. And they taste great!

For this review, MyBlogSpark and Fiber One sent me the following items:

  • 1 box of Fiber One Chocolate Chip Cookie flavor 90 Calorie Brownies (Yum, yum, yum!!)
  • Brain Stress Ball (To relieve stress from a busy day… although my 18 month old never lets go of it long enough to let me try! 🙂 )
  • Water Bottle (I love having another reusable water bottle on hand. It’s a great way to encourage the kids – and me! – to drink more water.)
  • Ear Tube Buds (These are a great way to listen to music, keep my focus, and encourage a little creativity in whatever I’m doing.)
  • Office Turf (I love this. Nature is a wonderful source of relaxation. This allows you to bring a little bit of the outdoors inside and can help you feel calm and rejuvenated.)
  • Mini Tote Bag (You can carry around and keep the items from your “survival kit” close by, or you can use it to carry your lunch or yummy snacks like Fiber One 90 Calorie Brownies. There are tons of uses for this little bag.)

I love the Survival Kit that I received, and I love the new Chocolate Chip Cookie flavor Fiber One 90 Calorie Brownies even more. These brownies contain 20% of the daily value of fiber and only 3g of fat per serving. They are a better choice and they taste great!

To learn more about Fiber One, check out the Fiber One Website. You can also become a fan of Fiber One on Facebook and get the latest news, updates, and more.

Want to win your own box of Fiber One Chocolate Chip Cookie flavor 90 Calorie Brownies and Survival Kit? Use the Rafflecopter Gadget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure:  The product, gift pack, information, and additional sample have been provided by General Mills through MyBlogSpark.

Teaching Your Child to Tell the Time (Guest Post)

Learning to tell the time is a significant milestone in every child’s development and it is still a very important skill for all to  acquire, despite the spread of digital timepieces. The following suggested steps will help your child to understand and  remember the essentials.

The Starting Point
We all need a motive to prompt us to learn a new skill and children are no different. As a starting point, try to get your child to come up with some important times in his or her day, such as a meal time or the point when a favourite TV programme is coming on. You can use this to highlight the advantages of being able to tell the time for oneself – there is a reward to be obtained.

It is important that parents remember that each child is different and they all learn at their own pace. This may mean that you need to spend a little time helping your child master his or her basic counting skills before moving on to the concept of telling the time.

Using a Clock
It’s a good idea to work with a large clock with hands that you can move; this can be a play clock or an old one with the glass cover removed. Start with the hours of the day and show how the short hand represents them. Encourage your child to move the hand by asking him or her to, for example: “Show me twelve o’clock, time for your lunch.” Purchasing themed clocks for a bedroom can also be beneficial in getting your child interested in the topic.

Move on to introduce the idea of minutes and explain how the long hand on the clock helps us to read them. Once your child has grasped the idea of minutes, he or she will be ready for you to show how hours and minutes work together on the clock.

Consolidating Your Child’s Learning
Remember that any learning points you tell your child or demonstrate with the clock will be significantly reinforced by letting him or her try it too.

Overall there is no great rush, you can wait until your child is fully ready and use some simple stages to help. Try to recall what it was like to acquire this skill yourself – did your parents use games to make it a fun experience? Encouraging play with other children can aid the process, for example ‘What’s the Time Mr Wolf’ is a childhood favourite for many kids.

This guest post has been brought in association with Tesco.com.

We Love Polly Pocket!

My daughter, Lucy, could sit for hours and play with Polly Pocket and her friends. And now that Mattel has made so many changes to the Polly Pocket toys, I really can’t seem to pull her away.

For this review, we received the Polly Pocket Hangout House Playset and the Stick N Play Game Room. Every time Lucy sits down to play with them, she gets the biggest smile on her face.

Here, take a look:

My favorite feature of the new Polly Pocket toys is the suction cup on the bottom of every item. Now, when Lucy wants to move from the dining room to the play room in the basement, she can – quickly and easily. She just sticks all the little pieces to the playset and walks downstairs. I’m not finding Polly Pocket pieces all over my house now – which is great, since Gage is at the stage where he will put anything and everything in his mouth.

I also like that the Polly Pocket dolls themselves are bigger. I think it makes them easier to play with and SO much easier to dress.

Lucy has a birthday coming up next month, and the only thing she’s asking for is more Polly Pocket stuff. And now that I’ve seen firsthand all the awesome modifications they have made to these toys, I am excited to get her more of the playsets and toys. It’s so easy to keep everything together and in one place, and Lucy can entertain herself for hours.

I encourage you to learn more about the changes they’ve made to Polly Pocket and all the great items they have available for your daughter by checking out the Polly Pocket website. (And while you’re there, your daughter can check out the fun online games, the secret world of Polly Pocket, and even watch some funny kid videos.)

I am really impressed with all the great things Mattel has done to make Polly Pocket even more fun for my little girl, and I would highly recommend these products to anyone that has a daughter that loves to play.

Disclaimer: I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Mattel Polly Pocket. I received  product samples and a promotional item as a thank-you for participating.

Helping My Children to Be Independent (Back to School!)

1st day of school 2012

On Friday, August 3rd, I sent 4 of the kids back to school. As you can tell by the picture above, most of them were ok with the idea. Lucy was thrilled to pieces. But, Jace – well, he had a rough morning.

I drove the kids down to the bus stop and proceeded to put all 4 of them on the bus. There were no tears, from them or from me. Lucy couldn’t quit bouncing up and down, and her excitement just bubbled over. I have never had one so happy to go to school.

I’ve had quite a few parents give me a hard time about the fact that I put my kids on the school bus – especially Lucy who started kindergarten this year. You see, according to them, I should have driven her (if not all of them) to school, walked her in, had breakfast with her, and then taken her to her classroom. It would help her “adjust.”

Baloney.

In Ohio, I was not allowed to accompany Ashley into the school or have breakfast with her. If I drove her to school, she was dropped at the door, and that was it. The teachers wanted a safe environment for the kids, and they wanted the kids to understand that Mommy couldn’t be there to hold their hands, and they needed to be big boys and girls.

Now, this was not easy for me…. at first. I grew up going to Christian school my whole life, and we didn’t have a school bus to pick us up every day. So, the first time I put Ashley on a bus as a 5 year old kindergartener, I was a basket case. And, if I have to be honest, I will admit that I followed the bus to the school for the first week. I did. It was hard to let go. But, I knew I had to. I knew that if I coddled her, she wouldn’t become independent, and she would always think that I would be there to watch her every move and catch her when she fell. We all know life doesn’t work like that, and I think it’s important kids learn that early on.

As I’ve had more children, it’s gotten easier to put them on the bus that first time. Especially this time around with Lucy. Lucy has been so excited about riding the bus, going to kindergarten, and all the wonderful new experiences, that if I had gone with her, it would have taken away from her excitement. This is her first time being allowed to do anything all alone, and she has embraced it. She comes home every day bouncing off the bus just as much as she was bouncing when I put her on the bus.

Maybe it’s because I have so many kids, but I doubt it. I was raised to be independent and do things for myself. I understood that when I went off to work the first day that Mom and Dad weren’t going to bail me out, and I had to be responsible for myself. My actions had consequences. (And believe me, I learned that lesson quickly.)

When it comes to your family, what kind of mom are you? (And by asking that, I don’t believe there is a wrong answer. Every child should be snuggled, cuddled, and loved on as much as possible. I just think they need a little independence as well.)

What are your thoughts?

Back to School with Walmart & Box Tops {Ends 8/31} #MyBlogSpark

The talk all over the internet is “back to school” and with back to school comes back to collecting and hoarding Box Tops to help out our schools.

Walmart has really helped us load up on Box Tops this summer. We found 4 Box Tops on tons of our favorite items – Hamburger Helper, Betty Crocker products, Totinos items, Pillsbury products, and our favorite Big G cereals. Just by grabbing the items with 4 Box Tops on them, we’ve already started the school year with a huge stash. The kids can’t wait to turn them in and show their teachers how many Box Tops they’ve got.

Did you know there are other ways you can earn Box Tops? Here are a few of my favorite ways:

Here are a few other links you should check out for the latest news, updates, and Box Tops information:

For this spark, General Mills and Walmart (through MyBlogSpark), sent me a $25 Walmart Gift Card to stock up on Box Tops. Not only did I get some of our favorite products, but I scored over 30 Box Tops as well! I love how quickly and easily those Box Tops added up, just by buying products we use every day.

Now, General Mills and Walmart want to do the same for one of my readers! You can enter to win a $25 Walmart Gift Card by using the Rafflecopter Gadget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: The Walmart gift card, information, and additional gift pack have been provided by General Mills and Walmart through MyBlogSpark.

Join the Scott Shared Values Program

The only thing I like more than saving money is when a company rewards me for using their products. That’s why I like the Scott Brand so much. With their Scott Shared Values program, not only can I save money on products I use every day, but I can also earn rewards on fun stuff for my family. Some of these rewards include savings on Hertz rental cars, Blockbuster total access (3 free rentals), free family fun passes (free admission to one of thousands of participating attractions and amusement parks nationwide), high value coupons for Scott products, and so much more.

I have always been a fan of the Scott brand. From toilet paper to napkins, paper towels to flushable moist wipes, Scott products are high quality without the high price. My favorite line of products is their Naturals line. I can go green by using recycled products in recycled packaging, but I don’t have to sacrifice quality. It’s better for the environment, and it’s still great on my budget.

So, what do you get when you sign up for the Scott Brand Shared Values program? Tons of great stuff! You get a coupon for immediate savings. If you sign up and then share the values with your friends, you’ll get instant access to a $1.25 coupon for Scott Brand. There will also be new coupon offers on the website each month, and you can quickly and easily earn rewards just by buying products you use in your home every day!

Joining is easy. You can find the form in the sidebar of my blog, so you can join from any page. This is an excellent program and I want to really encourage you to join.

So, what are you waiting for? Fill out this form and start earning rewards today!

Disclaimer: I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Scott. I received a promotional item as a thank-you for participating and am able to earn additional rewards throughout the campaign.